Pub owners, patrons breathe a sigh of relief over Thaksin's change of heart Thailand's entertainment industry breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after the government shelved a plan to force pubs, restaurants and nightclubs to close at midnight. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the latest proposal by the Interior Ministry, which is running a controversial social order campaign, would not work. 'I would like to see a more thought-out idea, not a blanket proposal,' Mr Thaksin said. 'The dusk-to-midnight operating time restriction may be barking up the wrong tree.' Bar owners in Bangkok, which now enforces a strict 2am curfew, have griped in recent months about the impact on business of further restrictions on opening hours. They point out that Thailand's bid to lure more tourists is at odds with restrictions on late-night venues, particularly for business travellers to the capital. The Interior Ministry's proposal would have applied not only to bars and clubs but also to health clubs, Internet cafes and restaurants. Mr Thaksin's ruling may prove a temporary setback, though. Hardliners are expected to keep pressing for a clampdown on seedy nightclubs that are blamed for sliding moral standards. Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Maleenot said this week that opinion polls in nine provinces had found popular support for midnight closing times. He argued venues could open earlier. Mr Pracha's previous boss, former policeman Purachai Piumsombun, rose to prominence in 2001 when he took personal charge of a widespread crackdown on late-night partying. A round of high-profile drugs raids on glitzy nightclubs initially proved a winner with a public tired of Thailand's freewheeling urban culture. A backlash from within the ruling Thai Rak Thai party sidelined Mr Purachai, who was moved to Deputy Prime Minister, and prompted a softer tone by the Interior Ministry. But analysts say he remains a strong, if abrasive, influence within the party. The nightclub issue demonstrates how Thai Rak Thai is caught between the need to soothe popular misgivings over lax morals and its desire to keep the economy ticking over. One entertainment industry association told The Nation newspaper that up to one million jobs could be lost if the midnight curfew came into effect. David Jacobson, who runs the popular Q-Bar nightclub, said the threat of earlier curfews put a squeeze on entertainment venues trying to expand, given the uncertainty in the air. He said the government's push to clean up Thailand's image was valid but should not come at the expense of venues offering a more upscale experience. 'The intentions may be good, but they are painting with a very broad brush,' Mr Jacobson added.